By Josette Keelor - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- If ever a garage band had a chance at making a name for itself, it would be Southern Governor.
In fact, the band has made its name, in more ways than one. Formerly known as Black Jack, the six members just changed monikers over the weekend in order to prevent confusion with a band of the same name in Stephenson.
In the less literal sense of the phrase, however, the band also has formed its niche in the area, judging by its first big concert on Jan. 30, which brought in 200 people in the middle of a blizzard.
A mix of new and old, three teenage lead guitar players and three more seasoned artists all contribute to the design of the band.
Having played guitar for only five years each, brothers Stacey, 14; Joshua, 16; and Patrick "Pat" Galanis Jr., 18, intend to take the band all the way to the top.
Still, they still have a long way to go.
It all started in 2004, when their parents gave them each Esteban acoustic guitars for Christmas. They had never picked up an instrument before, but their parents thought guitars would be a good idea, and, according to their mother, Lisa, what you buy one, you have to buy all three.
She says she never would have predicted what would come of that Christmas morning. For her, it was totally worth it.
"This is what they want to do for the rest of their life," she said.
Before long they moved on to electric guitars.
"We all three have Gibson guitars," Pat said. "We have Fender guitars, too."
Mostly, they stick with the Gibsons.
"Gibsons sound better, I think, they play better, but it's just your own personality what you like," Joshua said.
"Stacey plays more of the Fender guitar than we do," Pat said.
The brothers also play bass and have a drum set their parents bought, but their passion remains with playing the guitar. Through their lessons with musician Thurman Shepherd in 2005 and later with Phil Zuckerman, who helped them learn about forming a band at The Rock Room in Winchester, the brothers gained an interest in many types of music, honing their style to eventually writing their own.
They met drummer Ricci Troxell at The Rock Room and became interested in forming a band. They and lead singer Jeff Gregory have been together for about a year, Pat said. Bass player Christov Ashton joined them in late March. Pat also sings some, and Stacey does some back-up singing.
"We do originals plus cover songs as well," Pat said, mentioning Lynyrd Skynyrd as their greatest influence.
"We do three leads, just like they did," he said, indicating how the three lead guitarists will trade off throughout their songs. "Sometimes we do dual leads, with one playing rhythm."
Stacey likes Lynyrd Skynyrd guitar player Steve Gaines; Josh prefers Allen Collins and Pat, Gary Rossington. "We play a lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd , some Molly Hatchet. We do some country stuff too," he said, mainly because of Gregory's preference.
"Which, that stuff's cool, too," Pat said, listing Brooks & Dunn and Jason Aldean as some musicians they like. They even learned to play bluegrass music from Shepherd.
"We play some hard rock too, like Ted Nugent, some AC/DC, too. ... We like Lynyrd Skynyrd mostly."
"We all put our own part to it," said Stacey.
Of course, they also make up their own music and lyrics, which Pat says comes primarily from life experiences.
"Pretty much whatever comes to mind," he said. "It just progressed with learning to play guitar," he said. "There's stuff now that we're creatin' just by learning [more songs]."
Their song, "Fishin' Musician," was a tribute to Shepherd, who died of a heart attack shortly after they met him. Another song, "Goin' to the Show," is about performing and watching others perform. Their song "I'm Movin' On" is about "just going' places, I guess," Pat said.
And goin' places they are.
"We played a show in October at The Cove Campgrounds," Pat said, and they have opened for other bands and performed on radio station 92.9, but their big test came in January when they played at the Travel Lodge in Winchester to a crowd of 200 people in what their mother called a "coming out" event.
"They said if it wouldn't have been for the snow storm, we probably would have had 300," she said.
For a young band, that's not bad. One thing that sets them apart from so many others is the range of their interests and experiences. The three elder members have been in the business for years, though on the side since they each have families and work full-time day jobs.
The Galanis brothers are just starting out, but they intend to make a career of it. They say the band was their idea.
"Ricci's never been in [a rock band] but he's always had drums and played on them," Pat said, adding that Troxell was in a Christian rock band before he began taking drum lessons. Gregory and Ashton have been in various bands, he said.
They're helping write some," Pat said. "Jeff's been writin' some lyrics." Some of the first songs the brothers wrote were strictly instrumentals until Troxell added some lyrics to one. "The other two are just regular instrumentals," Pat said.
They can read some music, but a lot of their song-writing process is experimenting, memorizing and improvising, he says.
"Before we took lessons, I didn't even know about Lynyrd Skynyrd ," Pat said. "I probably would've liked 'em anyway at least."
"To have a song on the radio or something like that would be cool," Pat said of their ambitions. For now they enjoy learning from others and seeing what they and their band mates come up with.
The band plays almost 50 songs total and has nine original songs so far.
"I think we're playing about seven or eight now," Pat said. He believes their Southern rock vibe will carry them far in the business because they don't know of many other bands that play Southern rock. "There's a lot of Southern rock coming back in the country form," he said.
They chose the name Black Jack before they knew of the card game of the same name, or the other local band that has been playing since 1986.
"They liked Jack Black ... 'School of Rock,'" said Lisa Galanis. The brothers reversed the actor's name to title their band. Their father came up with the name Southern Governor, based on the idea of harnessing their Southern heritage.
Though its name change might hinder some of its business for a little while, the band, which advertises through fliers and on the Internet through Facebook and YouTube, will likely keep its following. Upcoming concerts include a July 16 showing at Four Corners in Star Tannery and an Aug. 14 show at the Strasburg Theater.